Second Semester Update

Photo of glass blocks at Nabina Ceramics

It has been awhile since I wrote a proper blog post about my day-to-day life in Doha. Also, I have been tardy with my last few posts. I was almost tempted to skip my post for this week, but I have been so good about keeping my weekly blogging routine that I would be remiss to give up now. So, better late than never.

I am now in week four of the spring semester at Qatar University (QU). This semester I am teaching four courses for approximately 20 hours/week. The new management of the Foundation Program English Department wants instructors to teach 36 hours/week over their one-year contract. Last semester, because I was new, I taught three courses for roughly 16 hours/week. Although I am relatively busier teaching this semester, I have only two preps: English Communication I and Business English. The nice thing about these courses is the English proficiency of the students, which could be described as intermediate to high intermediate. With my current students, I can explain English with more English. Last semester, I had a class with very low English proficiency. I would try and explain things in the simplest manner possible; however, if the students couldn’t understand me, there was not much that I could do but ask a student to explain in Arabic what I said to everyone.

Because this is my second semester teaching at QU, I am more familiar with the routine at the beginning of the semester and more comfortable with my male and female students. During my first semester, I was trying to get a feel for the cultural boundaries of my students, and I wasn’t really teaching as myself. This semester I am a lot less guarded, so I make more small talk with my students, and I joke with them more.

Me: teaches a Business English class for the second time

I also pepper the few Arabic words that I know into my class. When I come into classroom, I say “Salaam,” or the shorten version of “As-salamu alaykum.” When students ask me how I am doing, I respond, “Hamdullah”—which means, “Praise to God,” but a student told me it can also mean, “I am doing fine.” When I need to thank my students, a simple “shokrun” will suffice. When I need to get my students on task, I will chide them with “yalla!” or “Let’s go!” When I have a little more mental energy, I will try to learn some more Arabic phrases.

Me: says a few words in Arabic during class

One of the challenges that I am encountering this semester is that my class schedule Sunday through Wednesday is male, female, male, female. Plus, I usually only have 10-15 minutes to get from one campus to the other, and unfortunately, this means that I have to drive because my classes are in all different buildings! Last semester, I walked mostly from one class to the other because I had more time in between the three of them. Now I am dashing to my car and rushing from the male campus to the female campus and then back to male campus before heading to the female campus one last time. Additionally, I have to contend with the log jam of drivers picking up female students from the female campus. While all this driving every day is not optimum, I will say that I am a much better at driving in Doha now.

The last couple days I have noticed how I am completely relaxed I am while driving around the city. Heading into a crowded three lane roundabout? No problem. Google Maps telling me to go down a road that no longer exists because of construction? No problem. A Qatari in a Land Cruiser barreling down on me in my rearview mirror at twice the speed limit? No problem.

Me: after driving in Doha for more than a month

The other thing that I have noticed recently is that I am busier with social engagements. Maybe it’s because of my policy of never turning down a social invite, but I usually have something to do every day of the weekend. This past weekend, on Thursday night (Doha Friday), I had dinner with a friend in the Pearl. Then on Friday, I met up with my (ahem) roleplaying group in the morning and then in the evening went directly to a colleague’s house to watch movies with a group of guys—we watched The Death of Stalin, which was a very dark comedy. Saturday morning, I woke up, went to the Qatar National Library to return some books and check out more, stopped by the Torba Farmer’s Market for a vegan burrito, and then headed to Festival City Mall to get a shave and purchase curtains from Ikea. After running my errands, I had to tell a friend that I couldn’t meet him at the souq for his walking lecture. I still needed to finish my errands and prep for the week! This was the first social opportunity that I had to turn down.

Me: after all my social engagements!

There are a few more things that I will mention before concluding this update. First, I am working on a script with a colleague from work. This is still in the nascent stages, so I won’t say more until we are well into the second trimester. Second, I am planning on traveling to Oman over my Spring Break in April. I will spend about one week there. Round trip tickets are about $300, and it will take about 2 hours to fly there. Oman is supposed to be beautiful, so I am absolutely looking forward to flying there, renting a car, and exploring the landscape. Lastly, I will be in the US around July 1st and hope to spend time with all my family and friends on the other side of the pond. So, save a bottle of a limited run microbrew for me when I get back. Inshallah!

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